By Jason Della Rosa

By Jason Della Rosa

Herald Democrat

The Denison defense knew it was in for a challenge against the Lovejoy Leopards and while the Yellow Jackets were almost able to come away with a victory, the unit knows it had issues.

"It’s my responsibility to get them to play better," said head coach Chad Rogers, who has overtaken defensive coordinator duties this season.

Compared to last year’s meeting against the Leopards, when Denison allowed a school record 724 yards, the Jackets were much more successful as Lovejoy gained 524 this time around. The Leopards actually scored two more points than a year ago, however, including a pair of touchdowns in the final minute and a half to win 56-42. "It’s real frustrating," senior defensive back Yefri Chavez said. "Our offense is scoring in the 40s and that should be good enough."

The 56 points tied for the 12th-most in school history.

"Not that we got confused with the formations, we were so worried about where to be and line up instead of just being relaxed and ready to play," Rogers said. "That goes back to us."

Lovejoy quarterback Bowman Sells returned from injury after missing a month and Denison was prepared for the Leopards to throw more with him back in the lineup. Instead Lovejoy ran 48 times out of 79 plays.

"That’s what the plan was. Obviously you have to adjust," Rogers said. "With him at quarterback they are a different team. They did some things they didn’t do with their other one. We didn’t get it figured out fast enough. Second half we did a much better job."

Getting his kicks

Garrett Hestand’s soccer background has come in handy for the Jackets the past two games.

The senior defensive end filled in for Wade Walters and handled kickoff duties, which turned out to be a major task against Lovejoy considering the 56-42 final score.

"The main thing I was doing was kick it as far as I can and then go cover," said Hestand, who has 41 total tackles and a team-high five sacks.

Hestand had the last two kickoffs against Royse City when Walters was first injured. On his seven kickoffs against the Leopards, the average starting point was their 30-yard line. Five times it was the 30 or closer to the end zone.

"I thought he did a really good job," Rogers said.

Hestand’s older brother, Dalton, is Denison’s all-time leader with 120 extra points and second in field goals with 14 en route to being the 14th all-time leading scoring in school history.

"That’s where I knew how to do it," Hestand said. "I went to a couple of kicking camps with him and saw how they did it."

Walters, who has been bothered by a sore back, attempted the extra point after Denison’s first touchdown and it hit an upright and bounced out. The Jackets went for two the rest of the game.

The senior kicker is expected to be able to handle extra point duties tonight against Wylie.

Captains corner

Denison is rotating two captain spots alongside permanent captains senior Yefri Chavez and junior Devon Blanton. Last week against Lovejoy the duo was joined by seniors Garrett Hestand and Jamie Wood.

The top 10 awaits

With the end of Denard Whitfield’s career approaching, the senior running back is about to enter the top 10 of several lists in the Denison record book.

Whitfield’s 168 yards last week pushed him over 1,000 yards for the season, becoming the 19th Yellow Jacket to achieve that milestone.

In the process he surpassed 2,000 rushing yards, the 13th Denison player to record that many, and is now 12th on Denison’s all-time rushing list. He is 373 yards from becoming the 10th Yellow Jacket with 2,500 career rushing yards.

It was the 12th game of at least 100 rushing yards for Whitfield, making him the fifth Denison player with at least that many. He is tied with current Denison assistant Reggie Hunt and Ray Taylor. He is two behind current assistant Stanley Morrison.

Three more touchdowns were added to his total and the middle one gave him 25 in his career, making him the 12th Yellow Jacket with 25 career rushing touchdowns. He needs four touchdowns to become the 10th Denison player with 30 in his career. Whitfield is also climbing up the school’s all-time scoring list. His three touchdowns and two two-point conversions against the Leopards moved him to 12th place with 178 points.